Here is a fantastic in-depth history of sound synthesis and cards in modern computers, starting with the humble PC sound speaker right the way through to modern sound cards, from MacGateway.com. not forgetting the Commodore SID chip and the brilliant Rob Hubbard, a true pioneer in sound synthesis:
Although most users of IBM-compatible computers had to be content with PC speaker sound until the late ’80s, people who preferred other computer platforms were experiencing great sound as early as 1982 with the release of the Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 featured a dedicated sound chip from MOS Technology called the 6581 Sound Interface Device — usually called the “SID” for short. The SID was a music synthesizer that could play up to three voices simultaneously, each using one of four different waveforms. Each voice had independent controls for parameters such as filters, attack and sustain, allowing for a wide variety of sounds. Although the SID is no longer produced and supplies are dwindling, it continues to be prized among musicians and vintage computer lovers and is used in modern products such as the HardSID sound card and SidStation synthesizer. In all, it is estimated that Commodore sold 22 million Commodore 64 computers, making it the best-selling computer in history. The SID chip has inspired such devotion that streaming radio stations such as Kohina have popped up to preserve the music and introduce it to new generations.